In November 2011, all of India was talking about a new song that went viral – Why This Kolaveri Di. This was a song jammed playfully by actor Dhanush together with first time music director Anirudh Ravichander, which caught the fancy of listeners all over. Now, songs going viral is not a new phenomenon. I remember in 2002 how all of Chennai was humming O Podu from the tamil movie Gemini. A peppy beat and a catchphrase for the audience to repeat over and over are tested ingredients for a song to catch on and go viral. But Why This Kolaveri Di, a regional song in Tamil, went viral all over the India. 

2010 was the time when smartphones started becoming ubiquitous, and when social media was becoming commonplace. This combination meant that there was a new channel for things to go rapidly viral in short periods of time to the entire world. This could be seen with Why This Kolaveri Di enjoying unprecedented popularity. Living in the epicenter of the happening, i.e. Chennai, I literally saw the city enveloped with Why This Kolaveri Di fever. This song was playing everywhere I went. Every time I switched the TV on, music channels played this song. Whenever I went by a taxi-cab and the driver switched on the radio, this song was odds on to be playing. When I switched on Arnab Goswami’s The News Hour Debate, the guests for the day were Dhanush and Aishwarya, discussing this song! (As an aside, I enjoyed this segment – Dhanush confessed that all he was doing was having fun – both of them were almost embarrassed about the song going viral – the viral phenomenon took them by surprise).

With the song playing non-stop, people I knew started humming this tune subconsciously, having heard it several times. I decided to take up a challenge – a weird challenge of sorts – I would not listen to this song fully even once. I did not like the tune of the song – you know how certain songs appeal instantly to you, and other songs don’t – this song came in the latter category for me. The real reason for my not wanting to listen to this song was: I strongly suspected that I would be hooked to this song if I listened to it. Now I don’t want to give the wrong impression – I have listened to and like more than my fair share of songs that I wouldn’t like to admit in polite company – my wife would tell you that thanks to listening all the ‘bad’ songs that I like, her IQ might well have gone down by a few points. But, I had a strong sense that Why This Kolaveri Di and I were not meant to be, and I wanted to keep it that way.

This odd challenge took a lot of effort. I had to request cab drivers to change the station when this song came up (they thankfully obliged. It would have been interesting if there was a cab driver who loved this song and refused to honor my request). When I went to places where this song was playing, I moved elsewhere for 5 minutes and came back once I knew that the song would be over. When I got married in 2013, I told my wife about this oddity, and when we are traveling in the car together, she would helpfully change the station if this song would play. This challenge meant that she had a chance to leverage the following as a threat (in jest, of course, or so I hope) – “If you do X, I will play Why This Kolaveri Di“.

Till this day, I am proud(?) to tell you, dear reader, that I haven’t listened to this song fully even once. The first line of the song is the only line that exists in my head. 

Image Credit: Sony Music

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Prahalad Rajkumar

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